Supporting Local News

Galway teacher’s Barn Dance aids charity that supports bereaved families who lose a child

A Galway man’s devotion to the memory of an older brother he never knew has already yielded tens of thousands of euro for a charity that helps families who suffer the sudden death of a small child.

Over the past four years, Gerard Heneghan from Clonberne has helped to raise over €50,000 for FirstLight through an annual barn dance in memory of his brother Noel with almost €30,000 of that raised last year alone – and he’s now all set to do it again.

The 22-year-old has recently completed his primary teaching degree at Dublin City University, and he continues to work with FirstLight – as he has done since the age of fifteen.

Gerard is all set now for the fifth Baby Noel Heneghan Barn Dance is taking place on Saturday, July 20, in Clonberne Community Centre, with music from Stuart Moyles, Jenna Sloane, Seán Fahy and Aishling Rafferty.

“It will be a great night, raising much needed funds to help FirstLight to continue providing crisis intervention support to parents and families who have lost a child under the age of eighteen,” he says.

His own older brother Noel was born on Christmas Eve 2000, to parents Bernie and Paddy Heneghan – but just four weeks later, Noel died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on January 27 2001.

“FirstLight, who were then known as the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association provided invaluable support to my family to help them cope with their indescribable loss,” he says.

Established in 1976, FirstLight provides crisis intervention and psychotherapy to families across Ireland that have experienced the sudden, unexpected death of their child if, aged from 0 to 18 years.

These sudden, unexpected deaths can include but are not limited to SIDS, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, fatal foetal abnormality, mid-trimester loss, accidents in the home, accidents abroad, car accidents or murder.

“I have been carrying out this work since I was fifteen, raising over €50,000 in donations since. From this, in 2021, I was appointed ambassador of FirstLight alongside Fair City’s Una Crawford O’Brien,” says Gerard.

FirstLight Head of Operations and Development, Andrew Mernagh, has previously heaped praise and gratitude on the Heneghans for their work and contribution to the charity.

“It has only been through generous support from wonderful persons such as Gerard Heneghan, his parents Bernie and Paddy Heneghan, his brother Séan, family, friends and the entire communities of Glenamaddy and Clonberne that FirstLight can continue providing crisis intervention and free professional counselling support to suddenly bereaved parents and families across Ireland,” he said.

Pictured: Paddy, Bernie, Gerard and Seán Heneghan present the proceeds of last year’s fourth Baby Noel Heneghan Barn Dance to Andrew Mernagh, FirstLight Head of Operations and Development.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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